Three Pillars of Health: Diet, Exercise and Supplements
Patients ask me daily about how they can optimize fertility with supplements. I think there is a lot of misperceptions about this influence on fertility and success. I think generally the way to really think about diet, exercise and supplements is as follows:
- Diet represents approximately 80% of overall “health.” The ideas that one is trying to maintain health for the long term, not just do things on the short run to improve fertility potential should be life-long goals of optimizing health. As a result, this will have a positive influence on all organ systems including the reproductive system. Diet is 80% of the influence on health benefit. There are many diets out there, (the Mediterranean, low carbohydrate, Keto, Paleo, vegetarian influence/vegetarian predominance, etc.). There is not necessarily one diet that is better for all people. One must look at each of these and study the differences and determine which is best for them. So, I encourage people to do their research in this regard as this is a life-long endeavor.
Part of dietary ideas is to maintain an ideal body weight. Obviously, one must look up what is their ideal body weight based upon their particular dimensions (age, height, etc.). So, starting by looking up the IDW for yourself is key and then selecting the diet that works to help you achieve this goal.
2. Exercise. This represents perhaps at least 15% of overall health maintenance. The current recommendations are a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, typically five days a week for 30 minutes per session is considered to be the recommendation in general. Many people do more than this, but this would be the minimum to maintain health and obviously again, benefits for organ systems including the reproductive system can be realized. It is always recommended to at least get this amount of exercise per week and work our way up. This may be initially walking and then getting into more cardiovascular activity (jogging, running, other cardio exercises, HIIT, etc.). A variety of exercise regimens is always good to prevent boredom.
3. Supplements, perhaps, represent 5% of what is involved with overall health maintenance. There is an endless list of supplements that people recommend, and the list is growing constantly. The vast majority of supplements that people take do not actually have proven benefit. There is no magic bullet. That said, certain supplements may provide basic health benefits and other benefits. There is some evidence, for example, that a simple prenatal vitamin for females (a multivitamin for males), vitamin D supplementation 2000 to 5000 International Units per day, “pure” Omega 3 fatty acids (such as those produced by Carlsson or Nordic Natural), CoQ10 perhaps 200 per day, especially for those who are taking a statin medication.
Again, many, many, many other natural products, and supplements are circulating out there as “recommended” for improving fertility and other health aspects, but largely none of these is “proven” to be beneficial. I have seen patients taking literally 50 tablets/pills/capsules a day in an effort to improve fertility, but clearly it is a slippery slope, and it can go overboard if one is not careful. So, I recommend the above supplements as there may be other health benefits, additionally. Other supplements people do take, I do not object to that personally, but again, one must be careful to not go “over the top.”
Hopefully these are helpful guidelines. I think overall the goal should be maintaining long term health and not so much short-term fertility benefits. The latter may be the side effect, if you will, of achieving long term health benefits. These are the three pillars of “health”.
Peter Ahlering, M.D.